When it comes to business secrets, they sound almost taboo, right? Nowadays, most people think of either top-security corporations doing shady deals like a James Bond villain or classified government secrets. But generally speaking, a lot of business secrets aren’t all as dramatic as you’d see in books and movies. Even though customers prefer to have full transparency with companies they purchase from (and transparency should be encouraged), you just can’t share everything, even if you want to, because it could always potentially affect your business. Competitors love hearing secrets from other companies, and they’ll try to do what they can to thrive off of it.
Needless to say, you want your business to stay standing, so secrets are necessary at times. Think of the Coca-Cola recipe or the KFC recipe, these are all known to be heavily guarded, and since they’re not shared, all it does is boost the PR instead. In a way, it can help make your business look more professional. With these recipes and their business secrets kept locked up for so many decades, it begs the question, how do they do it?
How can some of these companies keep these business secrets as safe as they do? How can you do the same? Keep reading on to find out how you can keep and protect your business’s secrets!
Start Off By Knowing What You’re Protecting
No matter what type of business you are, there’s a chance there’s a secret out there that you just don’t want your competitors to know. You want to keep having that leg up above them, and as long as your product is better than theirs, it’s how you can keep on doing it. It’s the secret that makes your product so amazing; it’s what needs to be protected. But every business they have that one thing that needs protection, that secret that cannot and should not be known.
These secretive competitive advantages can be anything from a recipe for your company’s signature soft drink to an algorithm that your employees have developed, a research project, or even your business plan. So any business in any industry can have one. So whatever it is, you need to know why it’s so special to protect and how you can protect it.
Keep it All a Secret
Whether it’s your trade secrets, confidential customer information, or other intellectual property, protecting them is crucial. If not, your business can lose valuable proprietary information that could help it thrive. To start, identify the most important pieces of information that need to be kept secret. This can include financial, accounting, employee, recruiting, and other types of information. Once you’ve identified those pieces of information, make sure they’re clearly labeled as “CONFIDENTIAL” or some other designation that clearly states the item is a trade secret.
That’s the more simplistic route, but even when it comes to online or tech-related access, you’ll have to be careful too. A common question that occurs is whether wifi or is Bluetooth safe, and sometimes it can be questionable when you have a very important secret that you’re trying to protect. Overall, keep it confidential and keep it careful even when you’re online.
For paper documents, this means marking them in a color that is distinct from the text or making the item clearly identifiable by its file name. Afterward, just try to keep track of who has access to the information and what they are allowed to do with it. For example, if you have a confidential customer list, put it in a locked filing cabinet and restrict access to only those with a legitimate need to know the information. While this all sounds overall simplistic, this is exactly how it’s achieved. It’s about having it protected, classified, and keeping up with who knows it or has seen it.
Have NDAs Put into Place
If you have employees or contractors, then you especially need to keep all of this in mind. Even if you’re getting investors, they should sign one too. Your secrets need to be protected, and that legally binding contract has a lot of power. This agreement can also be a helpful tool in case a third party discloses your information during a transaction, such as when you sell your business or acquire another company.
There are many different NDA types and formats that you can use. In addition, it is important to choose one that complies with your state’s laws. While this might sound overboard, it’s almost always necessary, and it’s also how some of the biggest companies in the world protect their secrets.
Limit the Access and Information of the Secret
This is very obvious, and most businesses will actually do this too. Limiting access is honestly the best way to go about this. Make sure whoever has the information of your secrets can be completely trusted. Overall, be selective with who you choose too. Ideally, you’re going to want to select people who are in high positions like yourself.